Erik ten Hag explained he withdrew Rasmus Hojlund after 64 minutes during Manchester United’s 3-1 loss to Brighton because he is not yet ready to play a full match and labelled the boos that greeted this decision “positive”.
Hojlund has been rehabbing from a minor back injury since his arrival from Atalanta for an initial €75million this summer and made his full United debut during Saturday’s defeat.
Ten Hag’s decision to substitute him with United trailing 2-0 was met with boos by the Old Trafford crowd. The United manager described this as a “positive” sign of the supporters’ belief in the 20-year-old forward.
“It was positive,” Ten Hag said. “You see the fans in the first moment at Old Trafford, the reception for him was great, he performed very well, it was good they gave this signal, this message. It will give him belief.
“Everyone knows he came in with a small issue, we built him up the last three, four weeks. He is not ready for a whole game.”
When challenged that taking him off felt negative when United needed a way back into the game, Ten Hag replied: “If he gets injured because he is not capable to play 90 minutes then we are much further away than where we want to go.”
Hojlund appeared to open his account for United in the first half, only to see his effort ruled out by VAR.
Goals from Danny Welbeck, Pascal Gross and Joao Pedro consigned Ten Hag’s side to defeat, with Hannibal Mejbri’s 73rd-minute effort proving to only be a consolation.
The loss was United’s third from their opening five Premier League matches. Ten Hag conceded the run of results was disappointing but played down talks of a crisis.
“Definitely that is something that bothers me,” he added. “But also I have to see the way we play, finally it is about character, we have to see how strong we are, stick together.
“No (it is not a crisis) but we have to be very disappointed annoyed at ourselves. We will turn this. But there is a demand on us.”
United return to action on Wednesday when they travel to Bayern Munich in their opening Champions League group game.
Manchester United 1-3 Brighton analysed: Ten Hag booed as home side outclassed
(Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)